In writing this article I am in no way advocating the unsafe keeping or illegal keeping of venomous snakes. I’ll assume the reader has experience in keeping these dangerous animals and is well within his or her legal limits to do so.
Escape proof – When I kept venomous snakes I had a secure room within my home. This room was completely escape proof having no windows and the vents were screened off. Even the door were flush with the ground and had a rubber seal as a backup to prevent escapes. Keep in mind I lived
there alone and only put myself at risk. I would never keep venomous snakes in the house again and I would advise anyone else not too as well. I don’t care if you use locking cages inside of an escape proof locked room that’s simply not enough to cover the “what ifs.” I’m come to the conclusion that the only truly responsible way to keep venomous snakes like the cottonmouth water moccasin is to have a dedicated snake building which is fortified and truly escape proof.
Tools – Anyone looking to keep cottonmouth snakes should already have a couple snake hooks and a pair of tongs on hand, but if by chance you don’t, these are absolutely necessary for safe venomous snake keeping. In the past when I used to keep venomous snakes there was never really a time when the tongs or snake hook wasn’t used in the handling if the animals. When cleaning the enclosures I would hook the animal out straight into a large outdoor trash can with a lid until the cleaning was done at which point I’d hook or tong the animal back into the enclosure. Actually having physically contact with the animal never happened which really reduces the chance of an accident occurring.
That being said, cottonmouth snakes do pretty well in captivity, if you happen to have a wild caught animal you’ll notice they are very flighty and unpredictable and almost seem to be stressed out all the time. This may very well be the case, but wild caught do settle down over time if you give them the proper environment to adjust to captivity. If you’re thinking of keeping a cottonmouth snake but have yet to actually acquire the animal there are several breeders here in the United States that are producing healthy high quality captive born and bred cottonmouth snakes. These captive animals do very well in captivity and are a much better choice if you’re in the market for of these awesome snakes.
Proper caging – For venomous snakes you have a few options as far as caging goes, one option is to buy a cage designed specifically for keeping of venomous snakes from a company like Vision cages. These cages come with glass locks and are very secure and adequate for the keeping of
your new cottonmouth snake. The second option is built a custom cage yourself and if you’re a handy type of person that knows their why around a tool box this may be a cheaper option as lock as it’s secure and has some type of locking feature installed.
Proper Temperatures – Cottonmouths do very well with inside the cage ambient temp of high 70’s low 80’s with the ability to seek a hot spot of 90 degrees during the day.
Water – Although these guys are naturally semi-aquatic animals in the wild in captivity they do just fine being kept with a decent size water dish. The water dish doesn’t even have to be large enough for the animal to submerge in. In fact I’d recommend a smaller water dish that the animal can’t submerge in simply because cottonmouths will defecate in the water and dirty it up almost immediately which becomes a huge pain over time.
Substrate – Being that these guys live in the cypress swamps it’s only fitting to keep them on cypress mulch. Plus, cypress mulch holds humidity extremely well, it’s very naturalistic and it affords the animal a bit of security as they can bed down in it. Besides that, print-less newspaper would be my second choice.
Feeding – These guys feeding extremely well in captivity and even readily accept frozen thawed rats and mice with ease. They do really well feed an exclusive diet of rats and mice throughout their captive life. If for whatever reason you have a cottonmouth refusing food there’s a good chance that your animal maybe extremely stressed out or has another health issue as these guys don’t typically turn down food.
As long as you’re a responsible keeper and stick to your guidelines keeping this species can be very rewarding as they truly are a wicked creation. If you have any specific questions please submit them on the question and answer page and I’ll do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.